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Pope knocks military spending amid pandemic in Easter message

Pope knocks military spending amid pandemic in Easter message
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Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope calls for easing of tensions between Russia and Ukraine Pope Francis asks Minnesota bishop to resign following Vatican probe Biden should look to 'Ostpolitik' to negotiate with autocrats MORE denounced increased military spending and ongoing armed conflicts during his second Easter Sunday message amid the COVID-19 pandemic, calling them "scandalous."

Reuters reported that the pope spoke to just around 200 people in St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter's Square remained empty, with the thousands of Catholics who usually gather outside for the pope's message absent due to pandemic-related concerns.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened,” he said, according to the news service.

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“I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries,” the pope reportedly added.

His comments come as the ongoing civil war in Yemen, in which Houthi rebels believed by the U.S. to be backed by Iran are facing off against Saudi Arabia and the remains of Yemen's government, has resulted in a famine in which 16 million face starvation, according to the United Nations.

The depth of the crisis led the Biden administration to withdraw U.S. support for the war earlier this year, though the administration continued to support Saudi Arabia in response to attacks from Houthi forces.

Francis said Sunday that the famine in Yemen has been “met with a deafening and scandalous silence” by the world.

He also called for peace in other ongoing conflicts including in Ethiopia's Tigray region as well as in Mozambique, where Islamic insurgents are fighting government security forces.